Season Review: Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman

"It was successful, for us to get back to Victory Lane. We had fought so long, since 2014. The year was not completely up to our standards, but we had some bright lights." (Photo: Getty Images)

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2017 Race-by-Race Results | 2017 Detailed Statistics | Audio Review

With an early-season win at Phoenix Raceway and a top-10 finish to close the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Ryan Newman has two pretty good book ends to mark his 2017 campaign.

Newman's March victory in Arizona snapped a 127-race winless streak that stretched back to July 2013. It positioned him to secure a berth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, during which he was eliminated in the first round.

In looking back at his fourth season with Richard Childress Racing, Newman came away from the 2017 campaign with a generally positive vibe.

Ryan Newman"It was successful, for us to get back to Victory Lane," he said of his 18th Cup Series win. "We had fought so long, since 2014. The year was not completely up to our standards, but we had some bright lights."

Newman's No. 31 Chevrolet lit up the desert on March 19, when he traded tires for track position late and took the rare ride to Gatorade Victory Lane.

While race leader Kyle Busch and others pitted for fresh rubber during the final caution, Newman remained on the track and assumed the top spot on the ensuing restart. He then held off Kyle Larson over the final two green-flag laps, winning the race to the checkered flag by less than a half-second.

That victory also ended a long winless streak for RCR, which hadn’t won a Cup Series race since November 2013 – when Kevin Harvick was victorious, also at Phoenix Raceway.

By mid-season, that second win remained elusive and Newman found himself just outside the top 16. But a third-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway provided a spark. Four straight top-10 finishes in late summer at Michigan, Bristol, Darlington and Richmond secured the No. 11 seed on the 16-man playoff grid.

"It's harder to win, now," Newman acknowledges. "If you miss it by a little bit today, you're not second or third. You're seventh."

For Newman, seventh place would have been a welcome sight after the post-season began in mid-September. Finishes of 23rd, 13th and 13th again in the first three playoff races ended his title hopes.

Despite his 10th-place finish in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Newman finished at the bottom of the playoff standings - but a mere two points behind 15th-place Kasey Kahne.

With Newman approaching his 600th Cup Series start next season, RCR will enter the new year having scaled back from three full-time cars to two - for him and teammate Austin Dillon.

No big deal for Newman, who will celebrate his 40th birthday in four days.

Ryan Newman"A two-car team won the championship," he said, referencing Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones. "It's up to the business and financial side of RCR to make sure we have our i's dotted and t's crossed. This is about doing better as a two-car team, as an organization that has the same amount of resources but not as much overhead to go with it."

And while there's no racing in December and January, Newman is quick to point out that the holiday season doesn't mean NASCAR teams are completely slowing down.

"I don't think there is much of a disconnect from one year to the next," he said. "The off-season has a lack of racing, but there's still a lot of preparation going on."

And with his attention quickly turning to 2018, Newman knows a taste of success this year has only whetted his appetite for a full serving in the months ahead ... pointing out that, "Sometimes, you've got to have years of small gains to have those years of big gains."

Motor Racing Network continues our look at the 16 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers in 2017 tomorrow with a recap of the season for 15th-place finisher Kasey Kahne.

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